top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureQ&Q Publishing

The Lure of the Sea

by Susan Adriani, author of Where The Waters Agree

 


“A little sea bathing would set me up forever.” —Mrs Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

 

When Longbourn’s mistress said that to her husband, she had meant to persuade him to take his family to Brighton for a seaside holiday. In Brighton, the congenial smiles of Colonel Forster’s officers were as likely to gleam every bit as brightly as the sun glinting off the sea. Not only were there large encampments of red-coated soldiers stationed there for the summer, but there were people of fashion at Brighton. There were countless fine shops, public houses, circulating libraries, and theatres. There were horse races, foot races, regattas, and concerts. There were promenades overflowing with tourists, and bathing machines with dippers. In short, its amusements were designed to please.


No doubt, Mrs Bennet had envisioned her family attending every ball and party, where countless single, wealthy gentlemen would be in want of pretty partners. They would, of course, take one look at her bevy of unwed daughters and fall instantly and madly in love. By the end of their stay, Mrs Bennet would have weddings to plan, and trousseaus to order, and neighbors who would envy her excellent fortune in having managed to secure such fine husbands for all her daughters—especially Lady Lucas, whose own daughter, upon Mr Bennet’s demise, was destined to become mistress of Longbourn in her stead.

 

Regardless of her desire to go to Sussex, in the end Mr Bennet declared that he would not be moved. Mrs Bennet was denied her seaside holiday and remained at home while Lydia—and Lydia alone—was permitted to go to Brighton with the Forsters. We know that Lydia took every opportunity to enjoy herself there—to the detriment of her family’s reputation and prospects—but I can’t help but wonder whether Lydia also took the time to appreciate the natural beauty of the Sussex coast.

 

The seaside has always held a special place in my heart. The rhythmic rush of the tide, the swell of the waves, and the scent of brine and salt all combine to make me feel as though I am in another world—a softer, quieter, simpler world that could easily have existed in another time, in another place. I’ve spent countless pleasant hours exploring long stretches of sand littered with pebbles and rocks along the eastern coast of the US, but my favorite spot—the place my family and I tend to visit most often—is located within a little village in Stratford, Connecticut, on the edge of Long Island Sound called Lordship.

 

My husband’s uncle Frank once owned a house there, on a quiet street with a wide, grassy esplanade running down the center of it. His house was small, but his heart was large, and he opened up both to his nieces and nephews, welcoming them with open arms. So many summer afternoons were spent by the swimming pool in the backyard, or on the beach, which was a short walk down the street to a bluff at the end of it with narrow footpaths that wound all the way to the sand below.



A half-mile away there is an inn, and a seawall that separates a public parking area from the beach. The village center, a quarter mile from the house, boasts a pizza parlor, an ice cream shop, and a small, local grocer. Some of the residents drive around the neighborhood streets in golf carts, something that wasn’t done before the pandemic. The sunsets are beautiful. The scenery is serene. Parents and children and dogs abound. Everywhere, there is a sense of community and kindness. Across the Sound, you can see Long Island, a long, hazy strip of land that is achievable by boat if you have one, or by ferry if you don’t.

 

And there is a house. From the moment I saw it, I was charmed, not because of its lovely Victorian façade or the stones and crushed shells that line the drive, but because of the plaque that stands at the end of it, identifying the house for all who see it as ‘Evermore on Sea’.


The moment I saw it, visions of the English seaside danced in my head, as did Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. I swore to myself that I would write a story set at the seaside…someday, and that something within its pages would bear the name of that house. And so, I have.

 

Although the Evermore on Sea of my imagination doesn’t boast the glamor, excess, and pomp of other, more popular seaside retreats such as Brighton, that doesn’t mean it lacks the essentials. Like Lordship, it has picturesque bluffs, sublime views of the coast, and a charming rural village. It has sandy footpaths and sunsets where the sun seems to melt into the sea. And on clear days, it’s rumored to offer a glimpse of the French coast in the distance, much like the coast of Long Island can be seen across the Sound.

 

It also has Mr Darcy, much to Elizabeth’s chagrin! What it does not have is the fashion and frivolities of other, more popular, seaside destinations of its day.

 


Initially, seaside resorts were not lavish places. Their attraction was owed to the purported rejuvenating benefits of the sea and the fresh, coastal air found outside of the cities, where disease often ran rampant. The first resort towns were nothing more than rural fishing villages—until King George III visited just such a resort in Weymouth. Once word that the king had taken the waters there had spread across England, seaside retreats gained popularity as people of fashion descended upon them. This resulted in more resorts being constructed along the British coasts, drawing more and more people who were determined to enjoy themselves within them.

 

While many people continued to visit seaside resorts for health reasons, there were countless others who flocked there to see and to be seen. Those were the fashionable set—the nobility, and the wealthy upper class who had both the means and the time to indulge in a seaside holiday. There were hotels to accommodate them all or, if privacy was preferred, houses to let for the duration of their stay. Either way, the establishments were considered comfortable and luxurious, and were often located within an easy distance of any attractions.

 

Those attractions went beyond visiting the theater or attending concerts. Unmarried gentlemen and ladies, accompanied by eagle-eyed chaperones, flocked to seaside resorts for the purpose of meeting prospective marital partners, hoping to make an advantageous match within a vast pool of new acquaintances. Wealthy tourists took boat trips with local fishermen, considering it to be an entertainment in and of itself. Stones and shells purchased from merchants became decorative souvenirs. As a result, a commingling of different industries within the resort town emerged: a marriage mart, fishing, trade, and leisure, none of which existed in such harmony among the societal norms found within the cities and the countryside. Picture, if you will, Lady Catherine de Bourgh climbing aboard an ox cart to take a tour of Cheapside. Inconceivable!

 


While Weymouth and Brighton were made popular by King George and his Prince Regent son, George IV, there were other seaside resorts that managed to attract a bevy of guests eager to indulge in the delights of the English shore. Margate, Hastings, Scarborough, and Ramsgate were all popular tourist destinations, as was Lyme Regis. Renowned for its fossil hunting, Lyme Regis attracted countless tourists who not only wished to improve their health by bathing in its waters but endeavored to comb through its sandy beaches for fossils encased in its crumbling cliffs.

 

Would that Lydia Bennet had been sent to Lyme Regis instead! Bringing home an ammonite or a piece of fool’s gold would have made a better souvenir!


 

Sources:


 


Images:

Susan Adriani

BBC

John Colley Nixon, The Steine, Brighton (Wikimedia Commons)

George Hawkins II, Lyme Regis, Printed by: Day & Co (Wikimedia Commons)





355 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment


Barry Richman
Barry Richman
Apr 24

I'm glad to have read this post before diving into 'Where The Waters Agree" ... wonderful content. Thank you.

Like
bottom of page